of the countryside

This route covers the western part of the province, around the Guadalquivir riverbed. A flat land of rich agriculture, a step towards Lower Andalusia and open to influences that go up the river from Seville. The Renaissance also marks the urban development of such important centers as Andújar, especially Lopera, Porcuna, Arjona or Arjonilla, although later the Baroque left an intense mark. The presence of Vandelvira is documented, although once again Castillo “el Mozo” and his brother, Benito del Castillo, will be the most active, in addition to detecting the influence and presence of teachers from Cordoba.


At 20 km from Jaén heading north on the E-902 or A-44 highway, our first stop, Mengíbar, in whose surroundings it is believed was the famous Roman city of Iliturgis, in what is the rich archaeological site of Cerro Maquiz. The identity of the town is, however, more with its powerful Tower, the only vestige of the medieval castle, a Torre de Homenaje with a height of more than 13 meters with three vaulted rooms inside. Next to it, the church of San Pedro, represents the Renaissance mark, despite its modern reform of 1970. It obeys the Vandelvirian model of a temple of three naves separated by pillars and vaulted vaults, also begun in the master's lifetime although finished after his death, possibly by Alonso Barba.

Another architectural piece to highlight is the so-called House of the Inquisition, on Jaén Street, which sports a very late classicist façade, not before the first quarter of the 18th century. The wrought iron bars it has is interesting. Mengíbar was a prominent river port, on the banks of the Guadalquivir, due to its good geographical location, especially for the transport of wood from the Sierra de Segura.

From here our steps go towards Andújar, "capital" of the Countryside. We can do it, well without leaving the E-902 highway to Bailén, a city universally known for the famous battle won against the French in 1808, and which has a parish church worth visiting, the church of La Encarnación, Gothic but with important classicist contributions , and from there on the E-5 or A-4 motorway to Andújar, or on the contrary, continue parallel to the course of the river on the J-3413 road and then the A-6075 until connecting with the E-5, option for which we have chosen.

However, if the Bailén route is chosen, it is worth traveling from there to the neighboring Baños de la Encina, either by the local road JA-4100 or by the E-5 and detour in the Industrial Park by the A-6100 . The town is famous for its castle, dating from the Caliphal period, a National Monument since 1931, and the complex of the entire nucleus with numerous palace-houses dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, and the parish church of San Mateo, in which there are the hand the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. It is also essential to visit the Hermitage of Cristo del Llano, recently declared a National Monument, a baroque work in which its dressing room stands out, with polychrome plasterwork and mirrors, where the titular image is venerated.

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A few kilometers from Mengíbar through the J-3413 district, we passed through the town of Cazalilla, which emerged in the shadow of a fortress from which part of a semicircular tower remains as a trace that serves as an apse for the parish church of La Magdalena. Its interior has pointed arches, which speak of a medieval temple later transformed between the 16th and 17th centuries. The portal, simple, has classicist features like the tower, very high and built in 1627.

Villanueva de la Reina

We arrive again next to the Guadalquivir in this town, which was originally called Villanueva de Andújar, because it belonged to that city, but which changed its name in recognition of Isabel II. The nucleus is based on an old Roman foundation, Noulas, and later followed by another medieval settlement. The parish church of the Immaculate Conception shows that origin in its Gothic arches and pillars, although it was transformed in the first decade of the 17th century. Hence its elegant classicist façade and the tower with a beautiful spire.
In front of the church, the Town Hall, also shows through the gallery of arches and its classicist façade from the end of the 16th or early 17th century, the roots of the style in Jaén, always made in excellent stonework. Recently a façade, also classicist, but later, from the hermitage of San Nicolás, has been incorporated into the façade.


We leave Villanueva through the regional A-6075 until we reach the E-5 highway, which immediately takes us to the “capital” of the Countryside, which already under the old Regime was the headquarters of the Corregimiento. In its subsoil, all the historical stages have occurred since the Neolithic, but the oldest vestiges are the remains of its medieval walls. The monumental Andújar is dressed, however, for the most part Renaissance and the names of Andrés de Vandelvira and the Castillo, Francisco and Benito, are present in it.

The main interest of the visit is concentrated around two squares close to each other: Santa María and Spain. The first was where the original town hall and the Granary used to be, whose plots today occupy the House of Culture and which gives as a vestige of the time the Clock Tower, dated 1534, shows the imperial coat of arms of Carlos V next to the sundial primitive. Later another one with a modern sphere would be added. In front of it, the church of Santa María, a temple started in Gothic, as revealed by the vaults of the feet, its old chevet, which in a radical reform in the first third of the sixteenth century reversed its orientation and became a classical basilica. The work, which lasts throughout the century, registers several phases; in the first, the teachers Velasco and Tolosa appear, being appraised by Andrés de Vandelvira. Later, from 1560, Castillo "El Mozo" will take over. The temple contains pieces of great artistic value, such as the painting by El Greco, "La Oración del Huerto", in the chapel known by the name of the painter, and in which there is a valuable carving also of Christ tied to the column, from of the church of Santiago, work of the first quarter of the 16th century. Another remarkable painting is the Immaculate, from the Reinoso chapel, a work or copy of the Knight of Arpino. Also noteworthy are the three wrought iron bars, equally Renaissance.

Through Feria street we immediately come to the Plaza de España, presided over by the Town Hall, an old Comedy House built in the first quarter of the 17th century, later modified in the 18th century with a neoclassical project. Next to it, the church of San Miguel, which maintains its Gothic structure, but its main portal is one of the most beautiful examples of the first Renaissance in the province, and inside the gate and undercoat is a magnificent piece of carpentry with reliefs of Mannerist court of the late 16th century. The Sacristy, from the 17th century, stands out for its oval vault, painted with the effigies of the apostles, attributed to Antonio García Reinoso.

The rest of the parish churches all start from original Gothic projects, but with Renaissance or Baroque modifications. That of Santiago, today closed to worship, had a reform of the presbytery signed by Vandelvira. It also keeps in the Capilla del Cristo a la Columna, whose image we have seen in Santa María, one of the best examples of the delirious baroque of Cordovan origin, in the walls and vault of plasterwork made by the Primo brothers.

The church of San Bartolomé, outside the wall in the current Corredera de San Bartolomé, modified its head with elegant vaulted vaults made by Castillo “El Mozo”.

For its part, the church of Santa Marina, today dedicated to a cultural space, its entire interior was transformed in the 17th century.

The tour of the historic center of the city offers pleasant surprises. Its streets, which are quite straight and narrow to protect themselves from the heat, are often linked through small squares or “hillocks”, which function as hinges, focused by the attractive facade of a palace-house. Let's take Maestra street, parallel to the walls, behind the Plaza de España, from the Altozano de la Virgen, next to the Puerta del Sol and that leads us to the Altozano de Santa Ana, on that route the House draws our attention de los Niños de Don Gome, built on a tower in the wall, in the Mannerist Renaissance style that dominates Andújar, and a little later another corner tower-house, that of the Valdivia, of the same style and chronology. Already in Altozano de Santa Ana, the Cárdenas house-palace, today the seat of the courts, with an attached chapel, is perhaps the best example of that style that uses the padding on the covers, designed by the Castillo, and that it will remain as an identifying sign of Andujaran civil architecture until the 18th century, repeating itself throughout the city.

Ollerías street, the widest street and commercial artery, marks the limit of the walls and in it or next to it some religious foundations such as the Hospital de San Juan de Dios or the Hospital de las Monjas Trinitarias, in the neighboring street July 22, which dates from the late 16th century, and contains important works of art. On one edge of the city, too, is the Colegio de los Jesuitas, in front of Santa Marina, now a hospital, with a magnificent 18th century Baroque staircase. And a little further from the edge, the convents of Jesús and María, of the nuns of San Francisco de Paula, one of the oldest in Andújar, which boasts a beautiful Mudejar coffered ceiling in an octagonal shape, or that of the Capuchinas, current Museum of Sculpture "Antonio Orea".

Outside the city, in the heart of the Sierra Morena, the Real Basilica Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Cabeza, which has been declared a Festival of National Tourist Interest, is the great Andujas reference for its famous pilgrimage at the end of April, the most popular of all Andalusia until the most modern emergence of Rocio de Huelva. Cervantes and Lope de Vega refer to her. Later, also famous for the episode of the Civil War in 1936. The building, despite having been rebuilt after the War, preserves the structure of a nave covered with a large cannon, which was designed by Andrés de Vandelvira in 1565. At that time the city is decorated to receive the numerous brotherhoods that come from very different points of Spain.

In the vicinity of Andújar, Los Villares de Andújar, sits on a huge and very important Roman site for the production of “terra sigillata”, a ceramic that was exported outside the Peninsula. This ceramic tradition is preserved through the elaboration of artistic baroque pieces, such as its famous jugs. A good memory to take from our visit to Andújar.

It is absolutely recommended to have tapas in the bars of Andújar and not leave without trying the game meat, deer or wild boar, in which Andujar cuisine specializes.

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This town near Andújar is downstream of the Guadalquivir. To get there we can turn off the E-5, towards Córdoba, taking the A-6176 road. Marmolejo is famous for its medicinal waters, which have given rise to a famous Spa, immortalized by Palacio Valdés in his novel "La Hermana San Sulpicio".

Monumentally, the church of Nuestra Señora de la Paz is the most remarkable piece within the historic center; temple from the early seventeenth century, as revealed by the classicism of its simple portal. Modernly renovated, it has two baroque altarpieces from the 18th century, from Benavente (Zamora).

Somewhat distant, the Bridge over the Guadalquivir with its seven eyes, is the work of Benito del Castillo, at the end of the 16th century, and one of the most spectacular on this river.

In its district, the Aragonesa Castle, a medieval fortress transformed into a great hacienda with a neoclassical chapel, is noteworthy. Marmolejo celebrates the Corpus Christi Festival with great splendor. A good time to get closer.

Marmolejo celebrates the Fiesta del Corpus with great splendor. A good time to get closer.


We return to E-5, towards Córdoba, to go to Lopera, deviating from it to take the A-6175.

Of this important military enclave of the Order of Calatrava that gives as its main witness its late medieval Castle, declared a Historical Monument, located in the center of the town, acquired by the Valenzuela family in 1856. Residential castle with a chapel, there they were until the Civil War two tables by Pedro Machuca.

In front of the castle is the church of Santa María or de la Purísima Concepción, made in the late Gothic style of the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Inside it is worth noting the Sepulcher of Doña Marina Fernández de Torres, a Renaissance work from the mid-16th century, of the type attached to the wall, of which the Jaen sculptor Juan de Reolid is the author. Of its baroque altarpieces, which have been very reformed, some notable paintings from the Granada school are preserved, and especially some pieces of baroque goldwork from the end of the 18th century.

The Town Hall, although rebuilt after the Civil War, offers its original structure from the 17th century, sober, but clearly monumental.

Well-known because of their festive popularity, more than their architecture, are the Hermitages of Jesus and that of the Humilladero, for the two images of crucified that they keep; a larger one, the Cristo de la Veracruz, in that of Jesus, and a smaller one, that of Humilladero, the "Cristo Chico", which give rise to the "Fiesta de los Cristos" at the end of August.

Lopera is famous for its melons and especially for the high quality Amontillado wine, the "Herruzo".

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We leave Lopera along the same road, A-6175, on the way to nearby Porcuna, the old Obulco Iberia, which has provided the splendid set of sculptures from the Cerrillo Blanco site (Provincial Museum of Jaén). Important Roman settlement on which the medieval Porcuna was built, dominated by a castle of the Order of Calatrava whose perimeter encompassed the wide current square of Andalusia where the church and the town hall are located. Witness of the medieval fortress is the New Tower or Torrre de Boabdil, as it is a tradition that the King of Granada was imprisoned there; Gothic-Mudejar construction from the 15th century, inside which a Museum of archaeological content has been installed.

The church of La Asunción, stands out in the Plaza de Andalucía, for its definite neo-Romanesque style with which it was projected by Justino Flórez at the end of the 19th century, over another Renaissance one of which only the Sacristy remains, made by Benito del Castillo. Of the modern temple it is worth highlighting the mural paintings of a young Julio Romero de Torres, little known as a religious painter and muralist.

In the same Plaza, the current Town Hall is a rehabilitation of the old 18th century Granary. Outside of this central nucleus, the old Convent of San Benito deserves to be known, patron of the city and saint closely linked to the Calatrava Order because it has a Priory of the same name in Jaén. It preserves medieval structure and forms in capitals and access doors, dating from the 13th century.

Another point of reference is the hermitage of Nuestro Padre Jesús, at the bottom of a beautiful Paseo, where the homonymous image of great devotion is venerated, in its 18th century baroque dressing room.

Before arriving at this hermitage, in the aforementioned Paseo, is the “Stone House”, an extravagant whim of the local stonemason Antonio Garrido, who built it at his own expense and with his personal work, building even the smallest element all in stone , a task in which he invested twenty-nine years (1931-1960), within an indefinite style, exalting a trade, that of stonemasonry, of such roots in Jaén (it can be visited).

(It can be visited). Porcuna adorns its streets on the occasion of the Corpus Christi festival, but shows its greatest explosion of joy on the occasion of the Pilgrimage of the Virgen de Alharilla, on the second Sunday in May, with a massive parade of horses and cars to the nearby hermitage, on the way to Arjona, where we direct our steps.

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Cradle city of the Nasrid dynasty, which ruled the destinies of Muslim Granada, it was originally an important Roman settlement: Urgavo or Urgavo Alba. Later, the Calatravos stronghold and finally a sacred place in the 17th century when Bishop Moscoso y Sandoval promoted the excavation and discovery of the Holy Martyrs of Arjona, Bonoso and Maximiano.

Most of all these historical landmarks are set in the current Plaza de Santa María, on the highest point of the town, which corresponds to the medieval fortress and where there is a large Arab cistern, and two temples: the church of Santa María, the oldest in Arjona, Gothic in design, with additions from the Baroque period, but renovated after the Civil War. In front of her the Sanctuary of the Martyrs, built in 1634 in commemoration of the finds of the relics of Bonoso and Maximiano; A simple two-story temple, church and crypt, a project by Juan de Aranda Salazar, in its late-Renaissance style, although the dressing room dates from the 18th century.

The success of the relics promoted the creation of brotherhoods in many towns, which made pilgrimages here to worship and leaving wrought-iron crosses as testimony, which were erected around the church, of which five remain today, dated to the century XVII, of historical and artistic value.

Going down to the lower part we find the Renaissance traces in as many churches, which, still started within the Gothic, underwent significant transformations in the 16th century. The church of San Juan, almost entirely renovated at that time, however, would meet in the nineteenth century another new neohistoricist modification, which is the one it presents, but its main portal remains within the style of the first Granada Renaissance, within the school of Siloé. Inside, it is worth visiting the Barón de Velasco chapel and crypt, a work from the early 20th century, designed by Justino Flórez, with sculptures by José Capuz, and a vault with “Neo-Byzantine” style mosaics.

The church of San Martín, which dominates a large space where the old town hall was located, which had a Renaissance-style gallery or loggia, does not conserve anything from the 16th century except the tower, with a slender spire, ceramic veneer, the work of Francisco del Castle "El Mozo", dated 1566, and a shield on the outside of Bishop Delgado, which agrees with the previous date.

The church of Carmen is also curious, a votive temple ordered to be built by Don Isidoro Pérez de Herraste, at the end of the 19th century, within the prevailing neo-Gothic style with a tower, a replica of the Mudejar tower of Santa Ana de Granada.

For obvious reasons, the “neo-Arab” or more exactly “neo-Nazari” style emerges in significant public buildings such as the Plenary Hall of the current City Hall.

To get to Arjona from Porcuna we can choose another alternative route: Take the A6052, at the same exit from Porcuna, which takes us to HIGUERA DE CALATRAVA, where we can see the Purísima Concepción church, its Gothic factory transformed into another late Renaissance from the 16th century by Benito del Castillo. The two torso pillars next to the Presbytery are very striking.

From Higuera, through the JA-3402, we link with the A-321 and at the Pilar de Moya junction we take the A-306 that takes us to Arjona, passing through Escañuela.

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8 km from Arjona on the A-6176 road, we arrive at this emancipated town of Arjona in 1553, famous in literature for having been imprisoned and died in its fortress Macias, "El Enamorado", one of the most famous legends of love.

From that Calatravo castle, almost only remains the Torre del Homenaje, known as Torre de Macías.

Apart from this high tower shrouded in legend, another tower that is also highly visible and of a classic style is that of the parish church of La Encarnación, a temple begun at the beginning of the 16th century with a Gothic style in arches and pillars, which throughout its construction It was adopting supports and other Renaissance elements, although the main nave was covered with Mudejar armor, today hidden under the Baroque plaster vault. The classical forms triumph in the main portal and in the aforementioned tower that rises above it. The cover, Doric, is very Vandelvirian; however, the tower has a padded rig, which links it with the art of Castillo "El Mozo", so active with the Calatravos

The church has for altar a Visigothic altar, witness of an important settlement in the municipality of Arjonilla. Also noteworthy are the recently discovered wall paintings, in the late 16th century style, close to the Raxis, and a good collection of Baroque goldsmiths.

Near the church, in the square of Santiago, the hermitage of Santiago or of the Virgen de la Cabeza, boasts a splendid Mudejar coffered ceiling from the 16th century. And on the outskirts the hermitage of La Soledad, the old parish of Santa María de Valrico, shows a structure similar to that of the Virgen de la Cabeza de Andújar, which we saw from Vandelvira.

Other hermitages such as Jesús Nazareno and San Roque, both baroque, have been extensively renovated.

If it is worth noting, apart from a good number of stately homes from the eighteenth century, scattered around the historic center, the court building, old Town Hall, from the second decade of the seventeenth century, conceived within the classicism of the late Jaén Renaissance.

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We return from Arjonilla via the A-6176, but before reaching Arjona we turn off at the junction with the A-305 and a little further on with the A-311, towards Jaén, and along the way we find this town perched on a gentle hill where Its parish church of Consolación stands out, a temple from the early 16th century of the simplest type with a single nave covered with a pair of armor and knuckle of Mudejar tradition.